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Is my roof repair a "Do-It-Yourself" type project?

Posted on 13 April, 2014 at 12:19
Even the most avid do-it-yourselfers can be intimidated when it comes to roof repair issues.  And for lots of good reasons!  Our roofs are key in protecting every investment contained beneath them. When it fails, the repair cost can be multiplied many times over.
Even so, I've been called out to look at many problems where the solution was such an easy fix that I felt it my obligation to instruct the homeowner on how they could do it themselves, saving the labor cost- which is often many times that of materials. Some will happily accept the advice while most feel much more comfortable paying for the "expert" to do it- along with the written warranty I always provide. [Like most good businessmen, I'd much rather lose a momentary sale to gain a customer for life].
That lack of a warranty is just one of many drawbacks when tackling the repair yourself. In this article, I'll compare the risks and benefits, as well as giving you some How-To advice for those brave souls willing to take on the challenge.
HEIGHTS: The most obvious risk of course, is knowing you'll be working 10-20' above the solid ground. As I've found, fear of heights can affect anyone. Just within the past 2 weeks, I had a middle aged female customer walking an entire roof with me totally unafraid, an 82yr old customer climb onto a 2nd story roof with no trepidation at all, while another customer- A healthy 30yr old man- told me he absolutely doesn't do ladders! I myself have never suffered from that fear. But over the years, I've gained a healthy respect for the dangers of working at those heights. When I was young, I fell completely through a soft spot on a flat roof, landing on the concrete floor below. No broken bones but sprains and bruises galore. A few years later, I witnessed a co-worker fall onto a pool deck and shatter his hip and femur. He's been on permanent disability since. Then about 7yrs ago, I had a ladder slip below me as it began to rain. I fell 10' flat on my back and fractured my femur. I was fortunate as it healed swiftly and completely. So even if you have no fear of heights, you must always maintain a very healthy respect for it.
DETERMINING DIY: It goes without saying that some roof problems and solutions are so apparent, it doesn't take an expert to see them. Examples are: Blown off or damaged roof shingles; Broken and cracked tiles; Obvious holes and cracks on flat roof surfaces. Even if the problem isn't quite as obvious to you, it may be to one who's experienced it numerous times. It never hurts to ask a trusted professional if you suspect there may be a simple solution to your particular roof problem.
I should also caution that there are many times when unexpected surprises turn up once you get into the project. Damaged underlayment or plywood is often hidden beneath the surface and will need to be replaced once its discovered. I recently did a shingle repair around a chimney and discovered a huge gap behind the shingles that needed to be filled in with wood and new flashing. Those surprises are quite common so be prepared for the unexpected.
MATERIALS: Another problem you'll face when attempting the repair yourself is finding the correct materials for your particular situation. There are several places you can go to seek advice regarding which is best for you. However, I'd steer clear of seeking it from my neighborhood do-it-yourself store. Quite often the employees are biased towards the materials their store carries- not always the best- yet actually have no first-hand knowledge of its application and durability. On the other hand, material yards that deal specifically in roofing products (RWC, ABC, Allied, etc), usually carry a wide assortment of professional brands and most of their sales people are trained first hand on their products' use. They are also usually very eager to share that knowledge even with the average homeowner. My only advice there is to try and get there (or call) during their least busy hours, usually late morning to mid-afternoon, especially Tuesday thru Thursday.
EXPERTISE: As I mentioned at the outset, I have no problem advising a customer on remedies, especially if I feel that no real expertise is required for their situation. But their are many other sources these days anyone can utilize in fixing a problem yourself, especially online. While I have been known to make fun a time or two of "This Old House" type TV shows, they do have several excellent advice columns on their website regarding some of these projects. Whether its step by step shingle repair instructions:
http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/article/0,,219567,00.html
Or a Q & A of some of the most common roof problems:
http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20690923,00.html
Also mentioned in the previous section, salesmen at roof materials yards are a great source of information on DIY repairs. Depending on the problem, they may even have written instructions and diagrams they can share. Plus, some of the roof product manufacturers have those instructions on their websites for all to see as well. Sifting through them can be a tedious task but I'd strongly urge anyone to fully familiarize yourself with the process before attempting such repairs. Roof shingle manufacturers even list detailed installation instructions on every bundle of shingles they sale! If you're ambitious enough to handle a complete re-shingle project yourself, I strongly advise you to read and understand those instructions completely before you begin.
WARRANTIES: One of the biggest mental hurdles in repairing a roof problem yourself is the idea of possibly not getting it right the first time, then having to do it over again if the leak persists. This is especially a valid concern on certain roofs, particularly flat or tile. It even happens to the best of us occasionally. I've discussed in previous articles how many roof companies will not warranty these repairs, for this reason primarily. However, there are other legitimate contractors like myself who have no problem offering such warranties, even on difficult situations. Doing it yourself means of course, you need to be prepared to RE-do it yourself if need be. That can be very discomforting especially when you live in an area like mine, where a good rain test can be months away- when you may be many miles away.
Even if you are intent on taking on your roof repair as a Do-it-Yourself project and want a professional's advice on the right approach, myself and other professionals would be willing to spend a few minutes to do just that, when we can spare the time. Believe me, I'm very much aware of the value of saving whenever and wherever possible. All I ask is that you please, please be realistic and aware of your own limitations.

Categories: Roof Repair Tips

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Interestingly, I found this blog just when I needed this information. We are actually renovating our house, specifically the roof because we plan on adding a new floor. We are doing it by ourselves because paying for a contractor will cost a lot of money, that is why we agreed that doing it by our own is not that difficult. We seriously have no idea of what we are doing. And one thing led to another, we were throwing cements everywhere.
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